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CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment)

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) is a virtual reality environment consisting of a cube-shaped VR room in which the walls, floors and ceilings are projection screens. The user typically wears a VR headset or head-up display (HUD) and interacts through input devices such as wands, joysticks or data gloves.

The CAVE is contained within a larger room that must be absolutely dark when the CAVE is in use. Three-dimensional (3-D) images within the cave appear to float in mid-air. The viewer, whose headgear is synchronized with the projectors, can walk around an image to study it from all angles. Sensors within the room track the viewer's position to align the perspective correctly.

A research team led by Thomas A. DeFanti, Daniel J. Sandin, and Carolina Cruz-Neira developed the first CAVE at the University of Illinois at Chicago and demonstrated it at the 1992 SIGGRAPH conference. CAVEs are used for research into a wide range of disciplines including archaeology, architecture, art, biology, engineering, geometry, geology, medicine and healthcare, meteorology and physics.

In May 2007, researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada created the CAVEman, the first 4-D human atlas. 4-D includes the three spatial dimensions plus time, which allows researchers to simulate the progression of a disease or the effects of a treatment over a period of time.

Because the word "Cave" itself appears in the name, CAVE is what is called a recursive acronym. The name itself alludes to Plato's allegory in which prisoners confined to a cave interpreted external events from the shadows and echoes experienced within the cave. Most interpretations of the allegory center around the idea that our perception of reality is, similarly, not reality itself but a construct of reality created by our minds.

VR rooms are one way to enable a virtual reality experience. A newer technology, room-scale VR, is the use of hardware and software to enable a virtual reality experience within a cleared area.

This was last updated in August 2016

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